Part IV: 1899-1910
The never-before-published material contained in Part IV captures Edison's life and accomplishments in the early 20th century, reaffirming the inventor's importance to industrial society and modern life. Some 100,000 pages of correspondence, promotional literature, news clippings, family records, financial data, and documentation of experimental, corporate, and legal activities show a man of great power, energy, and influence. Edison patented new inventions, promoted their development, and started new companies while actively managing his laboratory, manufacturing, and commercial interests.
The collection documents how Edison's energies focused on developing a new alkaline battery for electric vehicles, while he also maintained his interest in continuous process manufacturing, turning to the manufacture of cement, where his innovations included energy-saving breakthroughs in the roasting phase of production. His designs to use poured concrete for affordable, quickly fabricated housing presaged the development of prefabricated buildings.
At the same time, Edison was a major player in the nascent entertainment industries, making further contributions to advancements in motion picture films, cameras, and projectors. His film company released The Great Train Robbery, the first blockbuster in motion picture history, which began the era of feature films. Part IV documents Edison's failed efforts to stabilize the production and distribution of filmsand to dominate the industrythrough exclusive licensing and formation of the Motion Picture Patents Company, which the federal government declared an illegal monopoly in 1915.
Edison's phonograph business continued to be the subject of intense competition in courtrooms and in the marketplace. Edison experimented with waxes, resins, and processes for mass-producing improved cylinder records. He introduced a 200-groove-per-inch long playing record, which he manufactured as the "Amberol." At the same time, he remained embroiled in legal battles over trademarks, sales rights, price fixing, and musical copyright as well as patent infringement related to long-playing records, the composition of wax cylinders, and the duplication of records.